Sono Motors unveiled this week the final production design of the Sion EV, a solar-powered electric vehicle that has been in the works since the Munich-based startup launched in 2016.
It’s been a long and bumpy road for Sono Motors, a journey that has involved a number of crowdfunding campaigns, a near bankruptcy, and a debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange as a publicly traded company.
The solar fruits of that rather tumultuous labor were showcased at the vibrant “Celebrate the Sun” Community event. The solar-powered Sion EV took center stage. However, another product, the Solar Bus Kit, a series of solar panels designed to be retrofitted to 12-metre public buses, suggests the company has more ambitious plans than a single passenger car.
The question, of course, is whether Sono Motors can manufacture and sell the EV on a large scale? And how?
Sono aims to start shipping the Sion to customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the second half of 2023. The company did not advise on how many Sions would be delivered next year. The only statistic it has shared is that it expects to make 43,000 Sions per year with a production capacity of 257,000 over seven years, according to a company spokesperson.
But even the most well-funded EV startups have struggled to get into production lately. Sono has faced a series of challenges since its IPO in November last year, from a stock price plummeting to switching manufacturing partners, and the path forward to manufacturing and supply is likely to remain bumpy given the current uncertainty in the market and supply chain.
Let’s see what this company is up to:
The final production design of the Sion
The Sion is a compact, family-friendly five-door hatchback that retails for €25,126 (~$25,628 on today’s conversion). The outer shell will consist of 456 integrated solar half-cells that will collect power from the sun and enable self-sufficiency on shorter journeys. Of course, the vehicle will still use a traditional charger to refuel, but the steady trickle of solar power should be enough to power most urban commutes, the company says.
The car’s 54 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery has a range of approximately 190 miles. Sono expects the energy generated by the solar cells to extend that energy by an average of 70 miles and up to 152 miles each week. In addition, the Sion is built with bi-directional charging technology, allowing commuters to use the energy stored in the battery (~11 kW) to power homes or other electronic devices.
Other improvements to the exterior and interior of the final design include a sleeker, cleaner-looking car, Sono said.
The exterior features new headlights, including a new daylight strip, taillights, a reversing camera, a sideline design at the bottom and a redesigned charging cover at the front. There are also new door handles, photos of which bear the words “made to be shared” — a nod to Sono’s hopes to get this car into the fleet.
At CES 2021, Sono said it would license its solar panel technology to other companies as an additional source of revenue, and this new bus kit is part of that move to diversify the company.
Since its IPO, Sono says it has ongoing letters of intent, pilots and prototypes for 19 companies that implement the company’s solar technology on a variety of vehicle architectures, such as buses, trailers, trucks and electric transporters. For example, Sono recently tested a solar bus trailer in Munich to provide backup power for public transport. Sono has also partnered with the Reefer Group, a refrigerated trailer manufacturer, to build a solar trailer for testing.
The company said its B2B solar business is already generating revenue, more details of which will be shared during the company’s earnings call in September. Sono’s stock has plummeted since its debut, losing nearly 93% of its value, so the company will definitely have to earn a new source of income as it goes back into production next year.
Why Sono Stocks Have Been a Hit
When Sono Group, the parent company of Sono Motors, started trading, it opened at $20.06 after the IPO was initially priced at $15. The shares peaked at $38.74 before the market closed on day one. At the time of writing, Sono Group is trading for $2.64, a slide that continues even after the company unveiled the production version of the Sion.
It seems the buzz around EV startups has started to hiss.
In May, Sono closed the previously announced underwritten follow-up offering of 10 million shares of common stock, with an additional 1.5 million shares available to the underwriters — including Cantor Fitzgerald and B. Riley Securities — at an even bigger discount.
Sono said it made $40 million in gross proceeds from this offering, which it has used to fund the start of production on its Sion, but investors are likely to view the offering as one that devalues stocks to an even greater degree. .